Top of the Crops: The Surprising Winners in Global Health Foods

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.08 - 2024 2:36 PM CET

Discover the champions of the nutrition world as recent research sheds light on the foods packing the most nutritious punch per calorie, with some unexpected winners leading the pack.

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When identifying the absolute healthiest food, one encounters the challenge that health is highly individual. What benefits one person may not necessarily be beneficial for another.

Recent research by Jennifer Di Noia has brought us closer to an answer, pinpointing the foods that offer the maximum nutritional benefits per calorie. The study evaluates foods based on their content of 17 essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber, offering a glimpse into what our plates should ideally feature for the best health outcomes.

The results show that only one food meets 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of these nutrients per 100 calories, according to

Watercress Tops the List

Watercress, a somewhat underappreciated vegetable, has been crowned as the healthiest food, achieving a perfect score in nutrient content per calorie. Its rich profile of 17 critical nutrients makes it an outstanding addition to a variety of recipes, from potato and egg dishes to refreshing salads.

Cultivating watercress does come with its challenges, notably its need for ample humidity, yet its health benefits make it a worthwhile endeavor for those looking to enhance their diet.

Second and Third Place: Swiss Chard and Chinese Cabbage

Not far behind watercress, Swiss chard and Chinese cabbage secure second and third places, respectively, in the health food hierarchy.

Chinese cabbage, praised for its crunch and easy digestibility, brings a bounty of nutrients, including vitamin C, to the table. Swiss chard, alongside spinach which takes fifth place, stands out as a green leafy vegetable offering both nutritional value and culinary versatility.

The Lemon: The Healthiest Fruit

While no fruit broke into the top ten, the lemon was highlighted as the healthiest fruit, distinguished by its nutrient density and culinary adaptability.

Despite the surprise of strawberries' position, given their high water content, citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, and grapefruit also received recognition for their health-promoting properties.

A Balanced Diet: The Ultimate Health Strategy

Beyond these specific foods, the research underlines the importance of a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, unsaturated fatty acids, and whole grains. Legumes are emphasized as an important, often overlooked source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans.

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